Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that helps your immune system fight cancer. The FDA has approved immunotherapy treatments for many types of cancer, including lung cancer.
Immunotherapy Lung Cancer Treatment
There are a variety of immunotherapy types, each working in different ways. Some immunotherapy treatments help the immune system stop or slow the growth of cancer cells. Others help the immune system destroy cancer cells or stop cancer from spreading to other parts of the body. Immunotherapy treatments for lung cancer can be used alone or combined with other cancer treatments, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery. Oncologists are optimistic about the outcomes, improving both the length and quality of life for lung cancer patients.
Types of Immunotherapy for the Treatment of Lung Cancer
Several types of immunotherapy are available to treat cancer, and many more are still being studied. There are currently two types of immunotherapy used to treat lung cancer, which are typically given intravenously (through an IV) every two to three weeks.
Immune checkpoint inhibitors
Immune checkpoint inhibitors are drugs that block immune checkpoints, which are molecules on specific immune system cells that need to be “activated” or “inactivated” to start an immune response. These checkpoints are a normal part of the immune system and keep immune responses from being too strong. By blocking them, these drugs allow immune cells to respond more strongly to cancer.
For example, the PD-1 pathway may be crucial in the immune system’s ability to control cancer growth. Blocking this pathway with PD-1 and PD-L1 antibodies has stopped or slowed the development of both small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non-small cell lung cancer for some patients.
Immune checkpoint inhibitors are now the most commonly used type of immunotherapy to treat lung cancer. Examples of immune checkpoint inhibitors include:
- Ipilimumab (Yervoy)
- Nivolumab (Opdivo)
- Pembrolizumab (Keytruda)
- Atezolizumab (Tecentriq)
- Avelumab (Bavencio)
- Durvalumab (Imfinzi)
The specific immune checkpoint inhibitor used depends mainly on the type of lung cancer.
Adoptive T-cell Therapy (ACT)
T-cell transfer therapy, commonly referred to as adoptive cell therapy (ACT), is a treatment that boosts your T-cells’ natural ability to fight cancer. T-cells are a type of white blood cell that develops from stem cells in the bone marrow. They are part of the immune system that helps protect the body from infection and may help fight cancer.
In an ACT treatment, immune cells are taken from your lung cancer tumor. Those that are most active against your cancer are selected or changed in the lab to better attack your cancer cells, grown in large batches, and put back into your body through a needle in a vein.
Adoptive T-cell therapy is more commonly used for non-small cell lung cancer than small cell lung cancer.
How to Access Immunotherapy Lung Cancer Treatment
Immunotherapy is often included as a part of a complete lung cancer treatment plan. Factors such as the cancer type, location of the cancer, and the patient’s overall health will help the oncologist decide which treatments to give and in which order. To learn more about immunotherapy for lung cancer and if you would be a good candidate for this treatment, speak with your oncologist.
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